Google and the scholar: the role of Google in scientists' information-seeking behaviour

Hamid Mahmuei, Saeid Asadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to demonstrate the role that the Google general search engine plays in the information‐seeking behaviour of scientists, particularly physicists and astronomers. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a mixed‐methods study including 56 semi‐structured interviews, a questionnaire survey of 114 respondents (47 per cent response rate) and the use of information‐event cards to collect critical incident data. The study was conducted at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College, London. Findings – The results show that Google is the tool most used for problem‐specific information seeking. The results also show the growing reliance of scientists on general search engines, particularly Google, for finding scholarly articles. Initially, finding scholarly articles was a by‐product of general searching for information rather than focused searches for papers. However, a growing number of articles read by scientists are identified through the Google general search engine and, as scientists are becoming more aware of the quantity of scholarly papers searchable by Google, they are increasingly relying on Google for finding scholarly literature. Research limitations/implications – As the only fields covered in the study were physics and astronomy, and the research participants were sourced from just one department of one institution, caution should be taken in generalising the findings. Originality/value – The data are based on a mixed‐methods in‐depth study of scientists' information‐seeking behaviour which sheds some light on a question raised in past studies relating to the reason for the high number of articles identified through Google.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-294
Number of pages13
JournalOnline Information Review
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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